Upgrading the Atari 2600 to S-Video with Stereo Output

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Chris Kennedy's picture

I finally completed another video mod for a console of mine. The Atari 2600 has been high on the list of consoles to modify for higher quality video output. It was my first home console, it has a lot of memories tied to it, and it also has a good library of games.

The first modification I tried was made by 8bitdomain. This was a rather frustrating experience as I had to actually perform some maintenance to his circuit after he sent it to me. I had to flow some of the solder to get the color back in the S-Video output. Installation of the chip was a snap, but the color output was too saturated. The images were smeared, and I was unhappy.

Enter the Longhorn Engineer. I followed his work in developing the mod - even bought a mod for the Atari 5200 a couple of years ago. The 5200 had a problem with vertical bars on my display. He has since improved the mods. I bought an improved mod - this time for the 2600 - and went to work.

Longhorn's mod required that you solder various wires (left side of picture) to the Atari 2600's motherboard (not pictured). Once you soldered those into place, you could use the wires on the left side to hook up your video connections.

My first test of the S-Video output yielded a beautiful picture on my 57" Hitachi. I was quite happy with the test results. Now all I had to do was start working on the case. Drill holes, insert the video connections, solder up the wires on the inside, close, and I was done. This was where disaster struck...

The drill bits pretty much chewed up and spat out the 30 year old brittle plastic. I pushed the project to the side for months. I was pretty sure I couldn't make it look that great as it would take some major putty/glue work to restore the case *plus* I had to finish the holes. Around the time I was gearing up for the Houston Area Arcade Expo, I elected to acquire a replacement Atari case and complete the mod. The Longhorn Engineer had updated his guide to mention picking up Forstner drill bits and using them on the case. I was so glad I checked his guide for giving it a second try. I purchased the bits at Lowes, came back, did the drilling, and it worked perfectly. I mounted the video plugs and closed up.

I did this last night. Unfortunately, it had issues after I closed. After some additional soldering work today (I had a cold solder joint), it is up and running.

I purchased the mod way back in April and have been too busy to take the time to finish it up. I am happy now that it is finished, however it looks like there are several tweaks to it to help improve colors. Regardless, it is working now. I will probably just use it this way for awhile, see how the mod evolves, and then make the 2.0 tweaks down the line. Feels good to finally get the Atari updated! Now I can enjoy some games.

(Seaquest pictured below on my TV)


ralf (not verified)
It is 2014...

.. and as stereo surround is standard on default hifi devices there is also a solution since nearly two years for retro consoles including the Atari 2600, 7800 and home computers. A demo video for that is located at youtube: http://youtu.be/YioxTZqF_xQ

Together with the "Atari 2600 Droid Edition" (Atari Darth Vader and Junior consoles and Atari 7800 soon) exclusively offered at ebay and sometimes on Amazon you'll get the best Atari gaming machines ever: Av/Composite, Stereo/Surround and Pause via Joystick. Together with special painting (red, green, blue), full silver switches and modern backlight it can't be compares with any other Atari console in look & feel and technology. Info on the retrovideogamers.co.uk website including mass of pictures and technical details.

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